Strong Light-Matter Interactions in Heterostructures of Atomically Thin Films

Science  14 Jun 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6138, pp. 1311-1314
DOI: 10.1126/science.1235547

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Atomic Layer Heterostructures—More Is More

The isolation of stable layers of various materials, only an atom or several atoms thick, has provided the opportunity to fabricate devices with novel functionality and to probe fundamental physics. Britnell et al. (p. 1311, published online 2 May; see the Perspective by Hamm and Hess) sandwiched a single layer of the transition metal dichalcogenide WS2 between two sheets of graphene. The photocurrent response of the heterostructure device was enhanced, compared to that of the bare layer of WS2. The prospect of combining single or several-atom-thick layers into heterostructures should help to develop materials with a wide range of properties.


The isolation of various two-dimensional (2D) materials, and the possibility to combine them in vertical stacks, has created a new paradigm in materials science: heterostructures based on 2D crystals. Such a concept has already proven fruitful for a number of electronic applications in the area of ultrathin and flexible devices. Here, we expand the range of such structures to photoactive ones by using semiconducting transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDCs)/graphene stacks. Van Hove singularities in the electronic density of states of TMDC guarantees enhanced light-matter interactions, leading to enhanced photon absorption and electron-hole creation (which are collected in transparent graphene electrodes). This allows development of extremely efficient flexible photovoltaic devices with photoresponsivity above 0.1 ampere per watt (corresponding to an external quantum efficiency of above 30%).

  • * On leave from Department of Physics, Boston University, Boston, MA, USA.

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